Pancreas divisum is a birth defect in which parts of the pancreas do not join together. The pancreas is a long, flat organ located between the stomach and spine. It helps in food digestion.
Pancreas divisum is the most common birth defect of the pancreas. In many cases, this defect goes undetected and causes no problems. The cause of the defect is unknown.
As a baby develops in the womb, 2 separate pieces of tissue join together to form the pancreas. Each part has a tube, called a duct. When the parts join together, a final duct, called the pancreatic duct, is formed. Fluid and digestive juices (enzymes) produced by the pancreas normally flow through this duct.
If the ducts do not join while the baby is developing in the womb, pancreas divisum results. Fluid from the 2 parts of the pancreas drains into separate areas of the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum). This occurs in 5% to 15% of people.
If a pancreatic duct becomes blocked, swelling and tissue damage (pancreatitis) may develop.
- Abdominal pain, most often in the mid-abdomen, that may be felt in the back
- Abdominal swelling (distention)
- Nausea or vomiting
Note: Unless you have pancreatitis, you will not have symptoms.
Exams and Tests
You may have the following tests:
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Abdominal CT scan
- Amylase and lipase blood test
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
The following treatments may be needed if you have symptoms of the condition, or if pancreatitis keeps returning:
- ERCP with a cut to enlarge the opening where the pancreatic duct drains
- Placement of a stent to prevent the duct from getting blocked
You may need surgery if these treatments do not work.
Most of the time, the outcome is good.
The main complication of pancreas divisum is pancreatitis.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder.
Because this condition is present at birth, there is no known way to prevent it.
Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.
Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.